I stood in awe in front of that mesmerizing building. I felt small, humbled. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. There I was in the middle of Piazza del Duomo, speechless and completely overwhelmed with feelings I can’t describe, just by looking at Milan Cathedral. It was love at first sight!
Oh, and it was life before COVID-19 pandemic…
Perhaps the reason this beautiful memory keeps popping up in my head is because squares are made for people to gather in big numbers; they don’t need reservations and they never get fully booked. They are for everyone. It is something we miss the most today: gathering around people of all ages without worrying about breathing near them.
Last year, when most cities in the world were in total lockdown pretty much at the same time, Andrea Bocelli decided to give hope and comfort to the people through music. The special location he chose to live-stream the biggest classical concert on Easter Sunday 2020 was Duomo di Milano, the second largest cathedral in Europe after Saint Peter’s Basilica and the third largest in the world. No wonder I felt so small standing in front of it… Although the church was empty due to the unfortunate situation caused by the pandemic, 28 million people watched the concert online within 24 hours!
Ahead of Time
This proves that setbacks are just what they are: setbacks. They are not everlasting. They don’t lead to a dead end. They are a challenging phase in which we feel stuck, slowed down and disappointed. But nothing stays the same and every crisis ends with many lessons learned. Now once you overcome the COVID-19 pandemic setback you will deserve to celebrate! And what better way to celebrate than visiting the place you feel the most appealing after spending months in lockdown?
If vacation travel deals had been put on hold for some time now, nothing prevents you from getting ready for your next trip. Start looking for destinations that you would love to travel to as soon as vaccination results start taking effect in specific locations around the world. Since you don’t know yet what places you could visit the soonest, consider two options: one for winter times and another suitable for summer holidays, depending on the date you will be “set free”.
So go ahead and sugar-coat your present moment by organizing the perfect holiday schedule for an exciting escapade.
In Milan, I didn’t feel like a stranger, I wasn’t homesick. On the contrary, I was happy and in peace. There were positive vibes everywhere. We were welcomed cordially by the waiters in the cafes and the staff of the hotel, a detail I like to point out as it’s not always the case elsewhere. Even the taxi driver was so nice he gave us so many pointers like a tourist guide would.
At sunset, I was still standing in the middle of the Cathedral Square of Milan when I noticed twinkling lights coming from the glamorous street to the left of the Cathedral. Why glamorous you say? Well, it was none other than the luxurious Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the 19th-century shopping street that houses Italian and international designers the likes of Versace, Prada, Armani, Louis Vuitton and so many more, making it the shopping destination in one of the world’s fashion capitals, Milano.
In the midst of all this surreal scene, a group of exquisite Italian musicians came out of nowhere as if to pinch me and remind me that I wasn’t dreaming. People gathered around them as they played beautiful melodies with such class that you would think you were attending an outdoor sophisticated concert at night, for free!
The Odd One Out
Earlier in the day, before reaching Piazza di Duomo, I intended going to an Italian coffee shop to have a perfect espresso made by a “vero barista italiano”. Little did I know that I would end up in an American coffee shop in the middle of Milano! Hard to believe right? Well, don’t judge me too soon, because a short walk from the Cathedral takes you straight to Piazza Cordusio where you stumble upon the largest Starbucks store in all Europe!
Don’t get me wrong. I know that if I want to talk about American coffee, I should wait till I go to New York and tell you all about it. But it is not the coffee itself that you would be interested in once you reach the largest Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Europe; it is actually the place itself (especially for those who love to post Instagram photos from hotspots in the world). It is not a regular coffee shop. There is nothing regular about it, inside out. What strikes you the most is seeing a modern American coffeehouse set in an eclectic 19th century Italian building that was once the Palazzo delle Poste (main post office). Milano’s Starbucks Reserve Roastery is undoubtedly a unique concept for a coffee shop-restaurant of some sort that serves food, desserts, cocktails and ice cream.
Milan was one of the cities I visited during my trip to Italy. The trip also included other beautiful Italian cities: Rome, the Eternal City, Florence, reminiscent of the Renaissance, and out-of-this-world Venice. Although Milan was the shortest stay, it is the one that left its mark on me. But the whole Italian vacation was exceptional and memorable, and I will be sharing my experiences with you in my next posts. So stay tuned for some more inspiration!